Today we are celebrating the feast of our beloved Saint John Paul II! On this day in 1978, the late Holy Father officially embarked on his historic pontificate with these words:
Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man.” He alone knows it.
At the beginning of his papacy, St. John Paul II reminded the Church of who man is. Man is made in the image and likeness of God. To realize himself, man must open wide to the Redeemer who knows and loves him. He must give himself in love to both God and fellow man.
St. John Paul II made his life a gift of love, and this is what we are celebrating today as we open our new permanent exhibit. As pilgrims journey through our nine galleries that trace the life and legacy of this great Pope, our hope is that they will see how John Paul II glorified God by his life. We also hope that they walk away with the grace and inspiration to do the same.
In his homily for the canonizations of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, Pope Francis said:
In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.
So with eternal gratitude we will celebrate today at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine! See our schedule of events and press release for details. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, please join us! Everything is free and open to the public.
St. John Paul II, Pray for Us!